We’ve all had “that call.” You know what we mean. The call when someone is in the midst of a crisis and it’s up to us to get it right. The call that sticks with us for days, weeks, months, years, a lifetime. Those are the challenging calls, which leave first responders mentally exhausted.
We finally get home with the chance to unwind. The heavy gear and uniform is shed. But how do we mentally shed that call? This is a crucial moment for our mental health.
Oftentimes first responders can no longer mentally carry the load. They become angry which leads to remaining silent. This is a life path none of us should want to live in.
How many reading this find themselves always angry or know another first responder who is angry at the world? Do we really want to live like this?
Entrepreneur and author Greg Trimble shared his thoughts about anger in an article The Effects of Anger and Negativity On Your Health. He wrote “Anger turns some of the best … most kind hearted … service oriented people into someone that they’re not … someone that they don’t want to be. One day your life is great and then one day you snap and the animal within you is released.”
An angry first responder can be a liability to themselves and others on and off duty. They are constantly a discipline problem within an agency. They isolate themselves from others. No one wants to be around them so the isolation increases. The isolation transfers over to a social setting when they are not invited to off duty gatherings or events. They feel they are speaking passionately about situations and topics that affect them but in reality they are lashing out and speaking in anger. Their personal life suffers. They can’t maintain a relationship with anyone. They are divorced. They blame every problem in their lives on others accepting no responsibility. They don’t want any help and won’t talk because they have now chosen to remain silent. Eventually they choose to or are forced to leave their job, which leads to more anger, isolation, and silence. Unfortunately we only hear about them after there is some sort of legal problem, they pass away at a young age due to medical problems, and there has been an attempt or completion of suicide.
Mike Bundrant, a retired psychotherapist, wrote an article 6 Ways Remaining Silent Creates Pain, Wrongdoing and Despair. In the article he states “Refusing to express yourself through words, however, can create a burden on your psyche from which there is little relief. Your unspoken message rings in your own soul as long as it is unexpressed. If that message is one of pain, then you suffer in isolated misery.”
First responders withdrawing themselves from those who care isn’t the answer. Expressing feelings verbally is difficult and painful for some. Speaking and reliving the critical incident all over again is mentally distressing. Those who are able to talk about how they are feeling can actually begin the healing process.
If you see yourself or others going down the road of anger and silence there’s always time to get right with the world again. In past articles we’ve discussed the importance of seeking help through your department with trained peers, chaplains and qualified first responder therapists. We understand it can be a hard decision but look at the potential to change a distressing path of life and be happy again. A happy, healthy first responder is what we want for all of you. You become an asset to your agency. You serve the public better. You become a respected and trusted member of your team. You find value in your personal life and relationships. You’ll be able to carry the load the next time you face another challenging call. This is a path we should all want to live in.
Be safe and it’s all about Living, Loving and Caring.
Cathy and Javier Bustos are law enforcement officers in Central Texas. As “That Peer Support Couple, LLC” they are strong peer support advocates speaking about surviving critical incidents and marriage. They can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org, their website: www.cathyandjavi.com Facebook, Instagram & Twitter.